One of my ex-clients, now very close friends a few years back once told me…  
“I love listening to you talk Kate, you use such interesting vocabulary and acronyms, it’s like you have developed your own lexicon for your craft”
She intended it as a compliment but I immediately was taken aback, not seeing it as such at all. 
“I don’t wish to create a void between each of our experiences and understanding of this subject? That’s the last thing I want to do!” I thought. 
Although this was a few years ago, I always liked to consider myself something of a teacher. I guess it’s why I spend a few hours each week penning this old thing out to you lot. If anything, investing time in this newsletter is one of the key ways I continue to practise this skill of translation. 
Now that I managed to find my day-to-day dream job of effectively being a full time marketing technology and analytics translator, I am grateful I have many hours to invest in continuing to pursue mastery in this area. 
Aligning to this mission, the company I happen to work for, The Lumery, stands by their mission to bridge the void between brands and their customers through bringing clarity to the complex. I guess I found my people.
One thing we often get into debates around is the use of technical acronyms and jargon. Of which, we are absolutely not lacking in the world of MarTech and analytics…
One of the reasons we are so conscious of this is that we know, despite doing our absolute best to craft psychologically safe environments, many people just don’t feel comfortable to pop their hand up and say “What in the HELL are you talking about?”
Pssst if you are interested in all things psychological safety you simply must follow The Lumery’s very own “Wendy” (for those who watch Billions, you get it). More commonly though, she’s referred to Dr Melanie Irons (and honestly, is nothing like Wendy in Billions apart from having a similar role with us). She does however, some brilliant things to say on the topic of psych safety so stalk her on LinkedIn if you’re interested in more on this topic.
For those who have been following along for a little while, you may remember I’ve spoken about Imposter Syndrome before and even last week, about Contemplating Comfort Zones (yeah, I’ve been a bit about the soft skills the past few weeks). Suffice to say, I too can suffer from not being courageous enough to admit I am lost. 
So what’s the deal? Why is it that sometimes, language makes us feel like we belong to a special group of people who are all banding together towards a common goal and other times, we feel like total outsiders? 
When is it that jargon and acronyms help and when do they hinder? And how do we get the balance right?
Image item
I wanted to start by dispelling the myth that all “jargon” lacks utility. Not that I’m on the side of jargon laden verbiage (irony, anyone?) but simply because in order to understand why people use it, we must first start with a balanced view.
As I reflected, here’s where I landed. With a list. I love a list.
Image item
Seeing this reflection laid out in front of me it was easy to see that the problem isn’t jargon itself, but its application within a particular context. 
It’s too simple and easy to point to the use of jargon as being a black-and-white language to be avoided; however, it’s clear that sometimes, its precision is useful. Pending on the context, it’s not “jargon” at all but merely language
Image item
Rather than merely trying to avoid the listed ‘cons’ above through shortcuts, we should invest time in comprehending our audience and their grasp of the subject at hand. By doing so, we can purposefully and effectively craft language, stories, and narratives that aim to educate and bring about meaningful change in our audiences understanding. 
On the other side of the coin, we should take inventory of, and critically evaluate our use of “jargon” in our day to day lexicon and seek to inject it where it makes clear, precise sense to do so. This is otherwise referred to using the appropriate level of technical language with technical audiences.
Let’s try both on for size. Just a couple of weeks ago I spoke to the difference between server side and client side tracking. Here’s how two conversations might differ in practice…
The CMO who is paying the invoice asks me about the value of the work: 
“There are multiple ways tracking can be implemented but the one you have today won’t future-proof you, so we’re recommending a new implementation that will improve the quality and integrity of the set up.”
* no mention of the type of tracking *
The Paid Social Media Specialist
“You have your Facebook pixel installed which is firing client side but we need to set up a server-side integration to mitigate the fallout from cookie blocking”
* without mentioning the type of tracking, they may not fully understand the need to employ the solution *
And it goes both ways. 
Today I had a workshop with a client who continued referring to IRP, which upon querying it, we learned stood for “Incremental Repeat Products” (yeah, welcome to the world of analytics). 
We must remember that when told to “use less jargon”, what is jargon to one person may not be to another. Had I dropped the acronym “IRP” in the room today I would have been met with many nods. 
As such, when offered this advice, consider instead whether you’ve taken the time to understand who you are speaking to and whether your message is cutting through. Chances are, if they think you’re dropping jargon, it’s either that they are failing to understand or they are getting the sense that others in the room are. 
If what is “jargon” to some is “clarity” to others, it’s not always that the use of it is wrong, just that it might not be relevant in the room you’re standing in.  
The real problem to be addressed is understanding how to quickly and effectively assess the level of maturity and domain level expertise in our audience so we can adjust the language to ensure our message is delivered with the clarity and precision we aim for. 
Now the “translating up and down” part has been (and is consistently) an art to learn… so perhaps that’s a future newsletter in itself. 
Until then…

Hi I'm Kate! I'm relentlessly curious about the attribution and origin of things. Especially as it relates to being a corporate girly balancing ambition and a life filled with joy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *